Heuristic evaluation is a method for finding usability flaws in user interface design. When we use heuristic evaluation, we evaluate the user interface according to the known usability principles.
This article will discuss how to make the most of this method.
1. Conduct heuristic evaluation early on in the design process
The value of heuristic evaluations is prevalent in the early stages of the design process. It helps the team to find areas where users likely face usability problems and prioritize design efforts to improve usability.
The perfect moment to conduct a heuristic evaluation is right after a product team creates the first functional prototype of a product but before they start to code it. The cost of fixing the usability issues found during the evaluation will be much lower than if the problems were found after development is finished.
2. Don’t conduct a heuristic evaluation for the whole product
When you evaluate the usability of the whole product, the evaluation procedure can be long and expensive. Most of the time, it’s possible to define specific areas you might want to review. For example, the areas that have a direct impact on user conversion rate. Always try to make the evaluation more focused.
3. Choose the right number of experts
It is recommended to invite 1–3 experts who will conduct the evaluation. The problem with inviting one expert is evident — the evaluation results you will receive might be biased. No matter how good an expert is, they can suffer from cognitive bias.
When you collect the evaluation result from 2 or 3 experts, you can compare them and have a more relevant outcome. Inviting more than 3 experts won’t give you any sufficing boost in the quality of results.
4. Try to invite experts that are familiar with the product space
Understanding the product niche will help evaluate the usability of your product.
5. Ensure that experts understand what they need to do
Experts should understand what area of the product you want to evaluate. It’s recommended to conduct a kick-off meeting with experts where you can share this information about the product and goals you want to achieve so that they will have the required context. Allow the experts to get familiar with the product to understand what you want to do.
6. Make sure that the set of heuristics you choose to use is relevant to your product
Heuristic evaluations rely heavily on the heuristics that are defined or chosen. Don’t rely solely on popular sets of heuristics such as Ten Usability Heuristics by Jakob Nielsen.
Ten Usability Heuristics is tried and tested set of standards, but it can be too much for your product. You should always try to make the set specific to your product because it will make for more effective testing and better results.
7. Ensure that experts use the same set of heuristics and conduct evaluation independently
Experts should use the same set of heuristics (the one you’ve defined before the evaluation). Otherwise, it will be hard to analyze the results of the assessment.
It is easy to introduce a bias in evaluation results if you allow experts to discuss the evaluation findings with each other during the process of evaluation. Leave the discussion to the end of the evaluation process. Once you’ve run your evaluation, it is helpful to bring the experts together to collect the usability issues and cross-examine the issues identified by each person.
8. Have a rating system in place
A rating system for usability issues will help you prioritize the list of issues found by the experts.
9. Don’t use heuristic evaluation as a replacement for usability testing
When conducting a heuristic evaluation, you invite 1–3 experts who evaluate the usability of your product. Usability experts don’t need to be users of the product. Also, experts often inspect the user interface rather than interact with it.
On the other hand, usability testing is testing your product with people who represent your target audience. They interact and use your product to complete specific tasks, and that’s how you collect insights about user behavior.
It’s recommended to use heuristic evaluation together with usability testing. First, you conduct a heuristic evaluation to understand the areas where users might face problems and then try to improve the usability of the areas. After that, you conduct usability testing to ensure that the usability problems are solved.